Introduction: Why This Book Matters

A college student poses with a backpack

Welcome to Post-Secondary!

Congratulations on your decision to attend college or university! For the great majority of  students, it really was your decision—not just an automatic thing to do. If you happen to be one of the few who just sort of ended up in college or university for want of anything better to do, the benefits  will soon become obvious.

The reason for this book is that post-secondary education requires commitment and effort. Like everything else in life that leads to meaningful results, success is not automatic. But when you apply yourself to your studies using the skills you’ll learn in this book, you’ll find that you can succeed.

When asked, most students say they’re in school primarily for the job or career they expect to follow after they get their certificate, diploma, trade, or degree. And they are correct that education pays off enormously in terms of future earnings, job security and stability, and job satisfaction. Every statistic shows that people with a post-secondary education will make much more in their lifetime on average (much, much more than the cost of schooling itself) and be much happier with the work they do.

But job and career issues are only a part of the big picture. An education results in many other personal benefits, and these also should be part of your motivation for doing well and continuing with your educational plans. Here are a few additional, less tangible benefits of a college or university education:

  • You will have a fuller life and a better understanding of the world around you.
  • You will gain decision-making and problem-solving skills.
  • You will meet many interesting and diverse people and have a richer social life.
  • You will gain self-confidence.
  • You will gain learning skills that can continue for a lifetime.
  • You will make wiser decisions about lifestyle issues and live healthier.
  • You will make wiser economic decisions the rest of your life.
  • You will be better equipped to deal with other people, organizations, governmental agencies, and all the hassles of daily life.
  • You will feel more fully a part of your community, the larger culture, and history.

A college or university education is correlated with greater success in all those areas, even though most students are usually more concerned with making it through the next class or test than the rest of their lives. But sometimes it helps to recall what a truly great step forward you are taking!

Sadly, however, it’s important to recognize that some students do not succeed, and drop out within the first year. Sometimes it’s due to an unsolvable financial problem or a personal or family crisis, but the most likely reasons that a  student in Canada will drop out include an ineffective social network (not getting involved in extra-curricular and volunteering opportunities), a lack of academic abilities, and poor attitudes and habits towards post-secondary education.[1]

A book like this one can help you stay motivated when things get tough, but it can’t necessarily give you motivation to start with. That’s part of what you yourself have to bring to your education. You can be assured  that you can learn the skills for succeeding in school.

Special skills are needed because the skills required at college and university aren’t the same as those required in high school. To name a few, there are differences in the study skills needed, in personal skills related to being independent, in social skills for getting along with instructors and others on campus, in financial realities, in matters of personal health, and more.

Remember, you can learn whatever you need in order to succeed. That’s what this book is all about. You’ll learn how to get the most out of going to class. You’ll learn how to study in ways that use your time efficiently and help you pass tests. You’ll even learn how to remember what you read in your  textbooks. You’ll learn how to manage your time more effectively than you might have in the past, so that studying is less of a burden and more of a simple routine. You’ll even learn how things like eating well and getting enough sleep and exercise make it easier to do well in your classes.

One warning: you might not at first see an immediate payoff for everything you read in this book. When it comes to certain things, such as tips for how to take good notes in class to help you study later on for a test, you will get specific, practical advice you can put to use immediately to get a better grade. But not everything is as obvious or immediately beneficial. Some of the things you’ll read about here involve ideas you’ll need to think about. Some things will help you get to know yourself better, and understand more clearly what you really want from your education and how to go about attaining it.

However, if you care enough to want to succeed in school, and read these chapters and try to use the information, suggestions, and tips presented here, you will succeed in your educational goals.

Being successful as a student doesn’t happen by accident. It takes strategy. Many people think students get the marks they get like a predestined event. But there are skills and methods to be successful which can be learned and practised. It all starts with taking stock of where you are now.

Exercise: Where Are You Now?

Where are you now?
Where are you now? Yes Unsure No
1. I understand all the benefits of a post-secondary education for my future life.
2. I have clear-cut career interests and have already planned my college or university program to prepare me best for my future work.
3. I am aware of how my previous educational background has prepared me for work in post-secondary.
4. I have all the personal traits of a successful university or college student.
5. I know how the learning process functions and make an effort to maximize my learning at each step in this process.
6. I know my personal learning preference and use it to my advantage when learning new things.
7. I know how to pay attention to gain the most from my classes.
8. I am aware of my educational institution’s policies for academic honesty and behaviour on campus.
9. I know where to find all the resources of my school that can help me succeed both academically and personally.
10. I am confident I can earn the grades I need to achieve success in my courses.
11. I know the first year of college will be the most difficult, but I am fully prepared and take responsibility for my own success.
12. I am taking steps every day to ensure I am successful in every aspect of the school experience.

Exercise: Where Do You Want to Go?

Think about how you answered the questions above. Be honest with yourself. On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your present skills for succeeding in your program, with 1 being “not very strong” and 10 being “very strong”?

In the following list, select the three most important areas in which you think you can improve:

  • Relating my personal values to education
  • Choosing an educational program
  • Finding the best career for my interests and skills
  • Being prepared for post-secondary-level work
  • Developing a positive attitude for school
  • Successfully using each step of the learning process
  • Adapting and broadening my personal learning preference
  • Getting the most out of classes large and small
  • Following all school policies
  • Taking advantage of all university and college resources
  • Getting the best grades I can get
  • Successfully transitioning to college or university and completing the first year
  • Doing everything I can every day to ensure I succeed

Are there other areas or skills that need more attention in order for you to succeed in school? Write down other things you feel you need to work on.

Learning Objectives: Here is Where We Will Go.

Here’s what we will work on in this book, Student Success. The following topics are covered by the thirteen modules of this text:

  1. Adult Learner Awareness
  2. Learning Preferences
  3. Support and Resources
  4. Communication Skills
  5. Study Skills
  6. Test Taking
  7. Time Management
  8. Technology Skills
  9. Research
  10. Online Learning
  11. Presentation Skills
  12. Financial Aid and Funding Options
  13. BC Transfer Process

Detailed learning outcomes for each topic can be found in the introductions to each module.

Throughout this text you will have the opportunity to work on and develop skills in many of the areas you have identified above that will impact your student success. Some topics are specific to post-secondary while others will be useful in life in general, such as communication skills, financial planning, time management, and presentation skills. Hopefully this resource will give you many valuable skills going forward.

You may notice that there are references to hiking in the mountains throughout the text. That is because embarking on your educational path is much like starting a hike in the mountains. It is a bit daunting. It is natural to have doubts and fears about your ability to complete your goal. But it’s also exciting and thrilling. At many points along the way you’ll have surprising joys, unexpected challenges, and encouraging victories. Enjoy the journey!

The journey awaits.


Text Attributions

This section was adapted from the following chapter:

Media Attributions

  1. Ma, X. & Frempong, G. (2008). Reasons for Non-Completion of Postsecondary Education and Profile of Postsecondary Dropouts. Retrieved from:


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Student Success Copyright © 2020 by Mary Shier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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